Business Partners Caroline Hlahla (UK London based) and Khulile Vilakazi-Ofosu ( South Africa) originally came together to build a customer-centric hair company that specialises in 100% natural textured extensions to suit African women’s natural hair (Bounce Essentials). However they noticed that beyond the deeply personal connection that women have with their hair, the identities and confidence of their customers’ children became a conversation piece. It was a personal experience in which Khulile’s daughter at age 3 (with the most beautiful, thick Afro) started wanting blond and flowing hair. This made the pair start thinking of how we could address the hair issue amongst black girls. They identified the very real lack of black dolls with kinky Afro hair, sold in toy shops for parents of black and mixed heritage kids to buy. They decided to challenge the norm and came up with a quality beautiful dolls collection called “The Sibahle Collection” that would be representative of a children of African and Caribbean heritage.
The Sibahle Collection wants children to see the beauty of their skin, Sibahle is a Zulu word that means “We are beautiful”. The dolls in the Sibahle collection have features that resemble most African and Caribbean children’s facial and body features.
“We decided to do this, is because we want our children to know they are beautiful the way they are. We hope the doll’s hair will teach our children how to take care of their own natural hair from a young age and to love the skin that their in.” – Caroline Hlahla and Khulile Vilakazi-Ofosu.
Our first doll under the collection is called Nobuhle, Buhle for short which is a Zulu word that means “the one that represents beauty”. Her hair is the most distinguishing feature of this doll. The child gets to experiment with the hair, wash it, care for it as their own hair. Up until recently, the European market attempted to fill the gap for black dolls with western dolls just painted black with hair nothing like the typical African kinky hair.
The Sibahle Journey has not been an easy journey to embark on. When the duo first started they thought it would be much easier to find a manufacture but were point blank rejected by manufacturers. The consistent response was that black dolls do not sell, black dolls are ugly, etc. Despite being a huge shock these rejections made the pair even more determined to succeed. Since launching the brand they have been sold out twice and are now looking for seed funding to scale up the brand.
Caroline and Khulile have partnered with 2 local young clothing designers based in South Africa. One operates from her own garage and the other is a stay at home mother who sews from her own dining room table whilst her toddler plays on the floor. The designers now have reliable income from the Sibahle order and the pair want to use the dolls to create more jobs in South Africa to empower many more women. This is only the beginning for these amazing entrepreneurs, from boardrooms to play rooms they will take over the world.